Equivalence in Translation

To begin with, we have to define the commonly used problematic term or concept in the field of theory of translation, “Equivalence”. As a matter of fact, the concept of equivalence has been of particular concern to translation scholars since it has been inextricably linked with both definitional and practical aspects of translating. Becoming an essential feature of translation theories in the 1960s and 1970s, equivalence was meant to indicate that source text (ST) and target text (TT) share some kind of “sameness‟. The question was as to the kind and degree of sameness which gave birth to different kinds of equivalence. This means that there are different translation strategies and procedures that can be used by the translator of any text of any language. Below is a brief analytical description of such various methods or types of translation:

Literal or Formal Equivalence: This means the translator attempts to maintain each and every single word in (ST) and convey it in the (TT). In other words, it is related to the form and aesthetics of the text, includes word plays and the individual stylistic features of the source text. In fact, this approach or method sometimes produces funny and awkward equivalences, which can never be understood by the target language text reader. Hence, in formal equivalence, the (TT) resembles very much the (ST) in both form and content. The best example for this method is when the translator comes to put idiomatic expressions in the (TT). In English culture, for instance, they say “It is raining cats and dogs”. Now, if this is translated literally in any given language, the translation produced looks funny and incomprehensible, which should be avoided, anyway.

Dynamic/Pragmatic/Semantic/Communicative Equivalence: All of these words or terms including dynamic, pragmatic, semantic or communicative are interchangeably used to refer to the kind of equivalence that focuses on the intended meaning or message of any given text or message. Thus, it is an effort made to convey the (ST) message in the (TT) as naturally as possible. This means that it is oriented towards the received of the text or message. Therefore, the translator needs to work out implied meanings in translation in order to get the (ST) message across. The role of the translator is to recreate the author’s intention in another culture in such a way that enables the (TT) reader to understand it clearly. In our example above, the idiom of “It is raining cats and dogs”, the translator should look for an equivalent for it in the (TT) so that it can be fully understood.

Textual Equivalence: This is used when referring to the equivalence between a source language (ST) and a target language (TT) text in terms of information and cohesion. “Texture” is a very important feature in translation since it provides useful guidelines for the comprehension and analysis of the (ST) which can help the translator in his or her attempt to produce a cohesive and coherent text for the (TT) audience in a specific context. It is up to the translator to decide whether or not to maintain the cohesive ties as well as the coherence of the (ST). His or her decision will be guided by three main factors, that is, the target audience, the purpose of the translation and the text type.

Grammatical Equivalence: This is used when referring to the diversity of grammatical categories across languages. In fact, grammatical rules may vary across languages and this may pose some problems in terms of finding a direct correspondence in the (TT). In fact, she claims that different grammatical structures in the (ST) and (TT) may cause remarkable changes in the way the information or message is carried across. These changes may induce the translator either to add or to omit information in the (TT) because of the lack of particular grammatical devices in the (TT)itself. Amongst these grammatical devices which might cause problems in translation include number, tense and aspects, voice, person and gender.

Based on the above, we can daresay that there are various approaches or types of the equivalence concept in the field of translation as used by different scholars in the field. Therefore, equivalence is undoubtedly one of the most problematic and controversial areas in the field of translation theory. This term has been analyzed, evaluated and extensively discussed from different points of view and has been approached from many different perspectives. In the final analysis, we can safely state that the difficulty in defining equivalence seems to result in the impossibility of having a universal approach to this notion.